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PHOTO: Lili DeBarbeiri
The small town of McNeal, Ariz., is off the tourist radar, but in it sits a small historic farmhouse where hospitality overflows. Homemade cookies hot from the oven are constantly available, plush bathrobes wait for you to slip into after a long drive, and roaring wood-burning fires make your stay nice a cozy. If you’re looking for a farm stay off the beaten path, Sojourner’s Homestead could be a place worth road-tripping to.
This bed-and-breakfast is much lovelier than it advertises. Architecturally, the farm resembles a farm stay in Pennsylvania’s Amish country. A large spa in the old laborers’ quarters overlooks the setting sun, and at night, the sky turns black and expansive with a million stars. Sandhill cranes fly above the farm to their winter nesting grounds, and a coyote yips as the sun rises.
More than 100 years ago, the Sulphur Springs Valley, where the farm is located was a vast open range for cattle and horses, dotted with a few small ranches. By 1918, nearly all the land had been homesteaded or used for cattle ranching. Originally called the Franklin Farm, Sojourner’s Homestead stands in the shadows of the Swisshelm Mountains. The land is flat all around, and dramatic sunrises and sunsets can be viewed from each guest’s bedroom porch.
Built in the 1930s, the farm grew everything from potatoes to peanuts and sold its crops locally for a number of years. In fact, the street running by the farm was named for the farm’s original owners.Ken and Terri Allen have since taken over ownership. Talkative and down-to-earth, the Allens toured several different farms and bed-and-breakfasts before finding Sojourner’s in 2001. Originally from New Jersey, they saw owning a farm bed-and-breakfast way out in southeastern Arizona as a chance to “get out of the rat race.” They never looked back.
“I love the open spaces of Cochise County,” Terri Allen says. “Here, you know your neighbors but still have space.”
The farm was aptly names: “To sojourn” means “to travel, to journey.”
Here are a few things that makes the Sojourner Homestead unique:
The décor of the Sojourner’s farmhouse reflects the Allen’s northeastern roots—old-fashioned fireplaces, dial telephones, lace curtains—without disrupting the southwestern appeal of the original building. A self-taught carpenter, Terri Allen saw the dilapidated house as a place to practice her skills. “Building is a form of relaxation for me,” she says.
She and her husband made many structural changes and modern improvements to the house before opening to guests, they managed to expertly maintain the historic integrity of the farm. “The house has preserved a lot of the old,” Terri Allen says, pointing out the original linoleum floor and old icebox full of mason jars.
The house’s charm is in the details: quilts, kerosene lamps, framed wedding handkerchiefs from the 1950s and crystal lamps. These relics were all donated by locals—Sojourner’s is the creation of the entire McNeal community.
The Simple Pleasures
Here at Sojourner’s Homestead, simplicity reigns. You can try hand-pumping water from an old well, toasting marshmallows or calling chickens.
Although few in Arizona have heard of this quirky farm stay away from the typical Arizona tourist destinations, guests manage to flock to the farm from all over the world—Israel, Italy, Germany.
“We enjoy the interaction with people,” Terri Allen says. “This is not just a job; it’s our home. A farm bed-and-breakfast offers guests more personality and a chance to learn about the local community.”
When You Visit
The farm’s small garden produces tomatoes, peppers and green beans that go right into guests’ country meals. Free-range, organic eggs are sold on-site to travelers, guests and McNeal residents. Enjoy picking grapes, apples and pecans around the property.
The 40-acre countryside surrounding the farm is picturesque, silent and serene. Catch a glimpse of bobcats (they love the hen house), javelina, mule deer, coyotes, jackrabbits or other native desert animals on an evening stroll.
Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, a significant but little-known bird sanctuary, is 2 miles from the farm. Sandhill cranes fly here by the thousands to their nesting grounds on the property. It’s an incredible spectacle to see as many as 20,000 birds flying low overhead in a kind of an avian safari experience.